Apostasy and the Islamic Nations

The 1990 Cairo Declaration, or so-called "Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam", was drafted and subsequently ratified by all the Muslim member nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Now a 57 state collective which includes every Islamic nation on earth, the OIC, currently headed by Turkey's Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, thus represents the entire Muslim umma (or global community of individual Muslims), and is the largest single voting bloc in the United Nations (UN). 

Both the preamble and concluding articles (24 and 25) make plain that the OIC's Cairo Declaration is designed to supersede Western conceptions of human rights as enunciated, for example, in the US Bill of Rights, and the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The opening of the preamble to the Cairo Declaration repeats a Koranic injunction affirming Islamic supremacism, (Koran 3:110; "You are the best nation ever brought forth to men...you believe in Allah"), and states,

"Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which Allah made the best nation..."

The preamble continues,

"Believing that fundamental rights and universal freedoms in Islam are an integral part of the Islamic religion and that no one as a matter of principle has the right to suspend them in whole or in part or violate or ignore them in as much as they are binding divine commandments, which are contained in the Revealed Books of God and were sent through the last of His Prophets to complete the preceding divine messages thereby making their observance an act of worship and their neglect or violation an abominable sin, and accordingly every person is individually responsible  --  and the Ummah collectively responsible  --  for their safeguard."

In its concluding articles 24 and 25, the Cairo Declaration maintains, [article 24], "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'a"; and [article 25] "The Islamic Shari'a is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration."

These statements capture the indelible influence of the Islamic religious law Shari'a -- the Cairo Declaration claiming supremacy based on "divine revelation," which renders sacred and permanent the notion of inequality between the community of Allah, and the infidels. Thus we can see clearly the differences between the Cairo Declaration, which sanctions the gross inequalities inherent in the Shari'a, and its Western human rights counterparts (the US Bill of Rights; the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which do not refer to any specific religion or to the superiority of any group over another, and stress the absolute equality of all human beings.

Enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights is the guarantee that laws may not be made that interfere with religion "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.". Absent the right to freedom of thought, or conscience, other rights such as the right to freedom of speech are rendered meaningless. US Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo reasoned elegantly in Palko v. Connecticut (1937) that,

"Freedom of thought... is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. With rare aberrations a pervasive recognition of this truth can be traced in our history, political and legal."

This principle of freedom of conscience is also upheld in article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which further makes explicit the fundamental right to change one's religion,

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

The gravely negative implications of the OIC's Shari'a-based Cairo Declaration are most apparent in its transparent rejection of freedom of conscience in Article 10, which proclaims:

"Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature.  It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion, or to atheism."

Ominously, articles 19 and 22 reiterate a principle stated elsewhere throughout the document, which clearly applies to the "punishment" of so-called "apostates" from Islam:

"[19d] There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari'a."
"[22a] Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'a.
[22b] Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'a.
[22c] Information is a vital necessity to society.  It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith."

Punishment by death for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islam's foundational texts -- both the Koran (verses such as 2:217 , 4:89, and their classical exegesis by renowned Koranic commentators such as Qurtubi, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir, and Suyuti) and the hadith (i.e., collections of the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as compiled by pious Muslim transmitters), as well as the sacred Islamic Law (the Shari'a). For example, Muhammad is reported to have said "Kill him who changes his religion," in hadith collections of both Bukhari and Abu Dawud. There is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali,  Hanafi, and Shafi'i), as well as Shi'ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes (d. 1198), the renowned philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences, who was also an important Maliki jurist, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy:

"An apostate...is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, ‘Slay those who change their din [religion]'...Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition...prior to his execution."

The contemporary (i.e., 1991) Al-Azhar (Cairo) Islamic Research Academy endorsed manual of Islamic Law, 'Umdat al-Salik (pp. 595-96) states:

"Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst.... When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory...to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed."

This doctrinal and historical legitimacy of Shari'a-mandated killing of apostates from Islam is affirmed by Heffening in his scholarly review for the authoritative, mainstream academic reference work, the Encyclopedia of Islam:

"In Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) , there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death...A woman, on the other hand, is imprisoned...until she again adopts Islam, ..[or] she also is put to death." [Heffening, W. "Murtadd." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs.]

As noted by historian David Littman, writing in early 1999, Adama Dieng, then a prominent Muslim Senegalese jurist, alerted the international community to the Cairo Declaration's profoundly dangerous impact. Dieng, speaking for the International Commission of Jurists and the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights at the Commission on Human Rights in February, 1992, decried the Cairo Declaration, which under the rubric of Shari'a, deliberately restricted certain fundamental freedoms and rights -- most notably, freedom of conscience. He also argued that the Cairo Declaration introduced "in the name of defense of human rights," unacceptable discrimination against non-Muslims and women, while sanctioning the legitimacy of heinous practices -- Shari'a-compliant punishments (from corporal punishments, to mutilation, and stoning) -- "which attack the integrity and dignity of the human being."

Pew Survey data published just this past August 13, 2009 reflect, starkly, the depth  and prevalence of popular support among the Muslim masses for these hideous views -- sanctioned by their theo-political Islamic leadership within the OIC -- and antithetical to our foundational Western freedoms. Specifically, the Pew findings reveal that among Pakistani Muslims, there is

"...broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for [apostates] those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers."

These hard data provide a clear, irrefragable global context for any rational, objective consideration of the ongoing plight of apostates from Islam, such as 17 year-old Rifqa Bary.

Shame on all those in our government, law enforcement, and chattering classes who willfully ignore this context.
The 1990 Cairo Declaration, or so-called "Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam", was drafted and subsequently ratified by all the Muslim member nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Now a 57 state collective which includes every Islamic nation on earth, the OIC, currently headed by Turkey's Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, thus represents the entire Muslim umma (or global community of individual Muslims), and is the largest single voting bloc in the United Nations (UN). 

Both the preamble and concluding articles (24 and 25) make plain that the OIC's Cairo Declaration is designed to supersede Western conceptions of human rights as enunciated, for example, in the US Bill of Rights, and the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The opening of the preamble to the Cairo Declaration repeats a Koranic injunction affirming Islamic supremacism, (Koran 3:110; "You are the best nation ever brought forth to men...you believe in Allah"), and states,

"Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which Allah made the best nation..."

The preamble continues,

"Believing that fundamental rights and universal freedoms in Islam are an integral part of the Islamic religion and that no one as a matter of principle has the right to suspend them in whole or in part or violate or ignore them in as much as they are binding divine commandments, which are contained in the Revealed Books of God and were sent through the last of His Prophets to complete the preceding divine messages thereby making their observance an act of worship and their neglect or violation an abominable sin, and accordingly every person is individually responsible  --  and the Ummah collectively responsible  --  for their safeguard."

In its concluding articles 24 and 25, the Cairo Declaration maintains, [article 24], "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'a"; and [article 25] "The Islamic Shari'a is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration."

These statements capture the indelible influence of the Islamic religious law Shari'a -- the Cairo Declaration claiming supremacy based on "divine revelation," which renders sacred and permanent the notion of inequality between the community of Allah, and the infidels. Thus we can see clearly the differences between the Cairo Declaration, which sanctions the gross inequalities inherent in the Shari'a, and its Western human rights counterparts (the US Bill of Rights; the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which do not refer to any specific religion or to the superiority of any group over another, and stress the absolute equality of all human beings.

Enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights is the guarantee that laws may not be made that interfere with religion "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.". Absent the right to freedom of thought, or conscience, other rights such as the right to freedom of speech are rendered meaningless. US Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo reasoned elegantly in Palko v. Connecticut (1937) that,

"Freedom of thought... is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom. With rare aberrations a pervasive recognition of this truth can be traced in our history, political and legal."

This principle of freedom of conscience is also upheld in article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which further makes explicit the fundamental right to change one's religion,

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

The gravely negative implications of the OIC's Shari'a-based Cairo Declaration are most apparent in its transparent rejection of freedom of conscience in Article 10, which proclaims:

"Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature.  It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion, or to atheism."

Ominously, articles 19 and 22 reiterate a principle stated elsewhere throughout the document, which clearly applies to the "punishment" of so-called "apostates" from Islam:

"[19d] There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari'a."
"[22a] Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'a.
[22b] Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'a.
[22c] Information is a vital necessity to society.  It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith."

Punishment by death for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islam's foundational texts -- both the Koran (verses such as 2:217 , 4:89, and their classical exegesis by renowned Koranic commentators such as Qurtubi, Baydawi, Ibn Kathir, and Suyuti) and the hadith (i.e., collections of the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as compiled by pious Muslim transmitters), as well as the sacred Islamic Law (the Shari'a). For example, Muhammad is reported to have said "Kill him who changes his religion," in hadith collections of both Bukhari and Abu Dawud. There is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali,  Hanafi, and Shafi'i), as well as Shi'ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes (d. 1198), the renowned philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences, who was also an important Maliki jurist, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy:

"An apostate...is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, ‘Slay those who change their din [religion]'...Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition...prior to his execution."

The contemporary (i.e., 1991) Al-Azhar (Cairo) Islamic Research Academy endorsed manual of Islamic Law, 'Umdat al-Salik (pp. 595-96) states:

"Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst.... When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory...to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed."

This doctrinal and historical legitimacy of Shari'a-mandated killing of apostates from Islam is affirmed by Heffening in his scholarly review for the authoritative, mainstream academic reference work, the Encyclopedia of Islam:

"In Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) , there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death...A woman, on the other hand, is imprisoned...until she again adopts Islam, ..[or] she also is put to death." [Heffening, W. "Murtadd." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs.]

As noted by historian David Littman, writing in early 1999, Adama Dieng, then a prominent Muslim Senegalese jurist, alerted the international community to the Cairo Declaration's profoundly dangerous impact. Dieng, speaking for the International Commission of Jurists and the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights at the Commission on Human Rights in February, 1992, decried the Cairo Declaration, which under the rubric of Shari'a, deliberately restricted certain fundamental freedoms and rights -- most notably, freedom of conscience. He also argued that the Cairo Declaration introduced "in the name of defense of human rights," unacceptable discrimination against non-Muslims and women, while sanctioning the legitimacy of heinous practices -- Shari'a-compliant punishments (from corporal punishments, to mutilation, and stoning) -- "which attack the integrity and dignity of the human being."

Pew Survey data published just this past August 13, 2009 reflect, starkly, the depth  and prevalence of popular support among the Muslim masses for these hideous views -- sanctioned by their theo-political Islamic leadership within the OIC -- and antithetical to our foundational Western freedoms. Specifically, the Pew findings reveal that among Pakistani Muslims, there is

"...broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for [apostates] those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers."

These hard data provide a clear, irrefragable global context for any rational, objective consideration of the ongoing plight of apostates from Islam, such as 17 year-old Rifqa Bary.

Shame on all those in our government, law enforcement, and chattering classes who willfully ignore this context.